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I like to think that I am brave and knowledgeable. I am frequently scared but mostly by intention. However, there comes a time in every person’s life where the qualities they hold themselves to are tested… when they get to eat a big slice of humble pie.
This is (one of) my stories.
Around 5 years ago my spouse, 100 lb dog, and I went backpacking along the North Shore. The day felt casual and relaxed. We meandered through the fall colors, watched the sunset from the nearby cliffside, and then retreated to our tent (yes, the dog too), dozing off into a deep sleep.
It was the perfect kind of deep sleep. We were buried in our sleeping bag, cozy and warm, breathing the crisp air.
Now imagine waking from that sleep, getting trampled by your angry dog who has started to bulldoze his way through the tent door...
“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!!!” ( insert less censored words).
“What’s going on?! Where is my headlamp? Is there a wolf? A bear?”
“Get the head-lamp! Get the headlamp!”
“ Do you have a knife? Did you bring bear spray? He is breaking the tent!”
“Hold the dog... hold the dog!”
I got a handle on our worked-up pup. We sat silently trying to discern what was causing the ruckus. We assumed there was a passing bear, wolf, or chipmunk...my dog's mortal enemy. Surely our dog would’ve scared off whatever it might be.
Until suddenly, a shrieking ghostly sound pierced our ears.
It was the most terrifying sound I’ve ever heard! A demonic cry from your worst nightmare. I am positive my heart stopped and my eyes grew three times in size.
My mind raced. I recalled my Dad’s reassuring words as a child, “there is nothing in these woods to be afraid of ”- yeah-right Dad!
Could this be bigfoot, the Blair Witch, am I dreaming? The sounds continued a few more times.
“What on earth was that?”
“Maybe it’s a fox killing a rabbit?”
“Is that a dying owl?”
The sound finally stopped and we sat frozen listening to our pounding hearts and heavy breathing. I waited for what could’ve only been a few seconds before I pushed my husband out of the tent to investigate.
“I don’t see anything” he yelled back. I could hear the fall leaves crunching beneath his feet.
After what seemed like an eternity, he found nothing. Feeling stumped and scared that my imagination would plague the rest of my night, I did what every wife does to annoy their brave husbands…. I turned on my phone and called my Dad.
To my surprise and my husband's annoyance, I had enough service to make the call.
“Hey, Dad...I’m sorry to wake you... I am okay, but I need to ask you something.” I stated calmly before erupting into a chaotic description while attempting to mimic the sounds.
After listening to my story, he burst out in laugher, regrouped himself and calmly stated, “I am not totally sure, but it sounds like it might have been a Lynx.”
Photo curtsy of fws.gov
That can’t be. I told myself.
I am familiar with MN wildlife. I’ve had encounters with moose, bear, wolves, and more. I know Lynx live in MN and I know they are rarely seen. I’d never heard a Lynx before. I guess I’d always assumed they made cute kitten sounds. Who was I to argue otherwise?
His laughter and speculation calmed my nerves. I slowly fell back asleep but awoke intermittently with a pounding heart.
The next day was beautiful and sunny. Our dog had only made a baseball size hole in the tent. There was no evidence of our midnight visitor. Feeling relaxed again, our hike back to the car was filled with speculation, curiosity, and laughter at our fear.
Back at the car, I pulled up an audio recording of a lynx .
It turns out, there were two cats at our Northwoods campsite that night. The unassuming lynx and this big old scaredy cat.
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Based out of Duluth, MN, Karina works as a psychotherapist and is an avid outdoorswoman in her free time. As a jack of all trades and master of none, she is often found outside climbing, running, biking, or dabbling in something new along the North Shore. When not at home, her passion for exploration and adventure takes her to the mountains out west, far off corners of the world, or visiting her family in Mexico. Drawing from a lifetime of travel, outdoor experiences, and a knack for some suffering, Karina writes content informed by the wisdom she has collected and her passion for adventure.